Opinion

Superintendent: Start of the school year brings renewed hope

It’s the start of the school year for Federal Way Public Schools. I want to share a brief anecdote from a recent back-to-school administrators’ meeting, where we gathered to discuss the upcoming school year. We discussed our vision, our expectations, and the strategies for implementing a standards-based education system.

At this meeting, a principal stood up and shared with the audience, “The most important thing that we can provide all of our students is hope.”

I reflected on this comment. Of all the important things that our students need to learn in order to compete and thrive in an increasingly competitive world — the math skills, reading and writing skills, science and civics knowledge, health habits and community values — I would agree that hope is most important of all.

Perhaps idealistic, some would say. What role does “hope” have in a standards-based world?

I believe that the future of our nation, and ultimately the future of the global community, resides on our students having hope — hope that they can meet the local, state, federal and international standards, and that they are working toward a future that has a place for each of them.

This generation of students will become the next generation of leaders in an increasingly complex and competitive world. What we are asking of them is more than has been asked of any generation before them. If we do nothing else for our children, we must instill in them the virtue of hope.

As educators, we must carry the torch of hope and belief in our hearts and eyes, in the words we speak, and the comments we write, in our posture and our walk. The world is full of hope thieves, and we cannot be among them.

Is it that simple? Is that all there is to it? Of course not. It also requires a supportive community and school system in which all students have an equitable opportunity to be successful learners. Where the learning process and the path to success are clear and transparent, students will know what they must demonstrate to succeed, teachers will know the most important skills to teach, and parents will be knowledgeable partners in their children’s education.

Federal Way students will be measured against rigorous local, state, federal and international academic standards. Classrooms and schools will be a place of cooperation and collaboration, rather than places of complacency. The clarity and transparency of academic progress and growth will allow students to focus on skill mastery rather than just earning points for a grade.

In the Federal Way Public Schools, we take each student from where they are and ensure their growth in fulfilling their vision of who they will become. It’s a system that offers hope, and one I am proud to lead. Welcome back to school, Federal Way.

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Rob Neu is superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools. Contact: rneu@fwps.org.

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